SED 13 (ePDF) Use of Timber in Tall Multi-Storey Buildings

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Use of Timber in Tall Multi-Storey Buildings

Since the dawn of civilization, timber has been a primary
material for achieving great structural engineering feats. Yet
during the late 19th century and most of the 20th century it
lost currency as a preferred material for construction of large
and tall multi-storey building superstructures. This Structural
Engineering Document (SED) addresses a reawakening of
interest in timber and timber-based products as primary construction
materials for relatively tall, multi-storey buildings.
Emphasis throughout is on holistically addressing various
aspects of performance of complete systems, reflecting that
major gaps in knowhow relate to design concepts rather than
technical information about timber as a material. Special consideration
is given to structural form, fire vulnerability, and
durability aspects for attaining desired building performance
over lifespans that can be centuries long.

ISBN 978-3-85748-132-1

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Much has been written in the last few decades about the relative merits of alternative materials
for building construction. As part of such efforts, this Structural Engineering Document (SED)
provides guidance to engineers on how to properly design multi-storey buildings that incorporate
timber and timber-based products as superstructure elements. The scope encompasses
traditional systems for buildings up to 10 storeys made from conventional timber products and
innovative systems that employ modern timber-based composites, as well as emerging possibilities
for using timber elements in very tall buildings.
Poor building performance is usually accompanied by a failure to integrate design across all
aspects of a project; or a failure to link design concepts with the realities of local construction
and maintenance practices. For example, if timber elements are not properly protected from
wetting (i.e. more than occasionally wetted at rates that exceed ambient drying rates), they are
unlikely to be durable. However, if they are protected adequately, timber elements are likely
to retain their initial properties for centuries. This document emphasises attainment of Total
Performance Goals on a cradle to grave basis, taking account of structural and non- structural
considerations. In the contemporary parlance, structural design decisions must support attainment
of Total Performance Goals from cradle to grave. Even though the lifespan of most buildings
are indeterminate at the time of their conception, their design and construction must address
issues like capability of the fabric to retain integrity up to and beyond the likely lifespan and
eventual dismantling.
The intended audience for this SED is structural engineering practitioners, construction professionals,
academic researchers, code drafting bodies, and students. However it is hoped that
there will be ancillary audiences amongst architects, property developers, town planners, and
governmental policy makers.